Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said veteran guard Derrick Dockery might start this week, depending on how he practices.
“This may be the time that he gets more of the snaps, or possibly even the starting snaps,” Jones said Thursday. “But we’ll have to see how the practices go this week.”
Dockery, a nine-year veteran, was signed Sept. 4. He shared first-team reps at left guard with Bill Nagy in practice on Wednesday. Nagy, limited in practice Wednesday because a neck injury, was not at practice Thursday during the portion open to reporters.
“He had a specific purpose when we brought him here. It was to provide base in the middle, and we didn’t want anybody to get any idea we don’t have base in the middle,” Jones said.
The “when” part in Orlando Scandrick returning to the field was still cloudy on Wednesday. The fourth-year cornerback, wearing a protective boot at the bottom of his right leg, said he’s not sure when he will be able to come back to action.
“I don’t know right now,” he said. “We’ve just got to get this boot off first. Everyone heals different.”
However, Scandrick had a better idea “how” he might return when he gets back to playing again from a high-ankle sprain injury he suffered on what he recalls as the second play of the game against the Jets.
“My biggest thing is staying in it mentally, which I will do,” Scandrick said. “I’m going to continue to study, continue to prepare as if I’m playing and continue to lift weights and keep my body in condition. When I come back, I fully expect to pick up where I left off in my play.”
Although Scandrick played most of the first quarter with the injury, he said he didn’t realize the severity of it right away.
“I just came out to get my ankle re-taped,” he said. “That’s when we realized it was more than that.”
Scandrick was then carted off the field for further evaluation in the locker room. However, he then jogged back on the field in hopes of playing again.
“I wanted to, but it wasn’t my decision,” Scandrick said. “It’s ok to run straight ahead. To break and cut on it, it was tough.”
Scandrick signed a five-year, $25 million contract extension last month, signaling the Cowboys’ faith in him not only for this season but down the road as a future starter.
Not since his junior season at Penn Hills High School in Pittsburgh has Barry Church found himself playing the cornerback position. And he said it wasn’t too long before he found out safety was a better spot. That’s where he excelled enough to be a four-time all-conference performer at Toledo and now have a job in the NFL.
But sometimes, that background will be needed once again. The Cowboys were in a desperate way Sunday night in the Meadowlands with the cornerbacks dropping like flies. And it was Church who ended up playing cornerback in the nickel defense.
“It’s been a while since I did that,” Church laughed. “But when you get in the middle of the game and things like that happen, you can’t worry about it. You just have to trust your instincts and go play. That’s what I did.”
And that’s just the latest example of the Cowboys starting to figure out just what this second-year player can do.
It seems like everything they put on his plate, Barry Church handles it.
Last year, they inserted him on the goal-line defense and he not only held his own, but made some key plays, including a goal-line tackle to save a touchdown against the Lions.
While he didn’t play much on special teams in college, seeing that he was a four-year starter, Church has developed into of Joe DeCamillis’ top three players on all of the coverage units. Church tied for the third on the team last year with 16 special teams tackles.
And even this year, he began training camp as a first-team safety until both Abram Elam and Gerald Sensabaugh were signed. But since they only signed for one-year deals each, it’s likely Church still figures into the long-term plans at safety.
“I don’t really worry about any of that or how it’ll work out,” Church said. “You try to stay focused for this week’s game. I’ve got a job to do and hopefully when my number is called, I can step up and make the plays.”
According to his position coach, Church has been doing just that.
“He’s around the ball a lot,” defensive backs coach Brett Maxie said. “We think Barry has done a really good job this year. He’s gotten a lot better in all areas. We trust him to make the right plays.”
And they’re even trusting him to play positions he hasn’t done since high school.
IRVING, Texas – The Cowboys made a transaction on Thursday morning by re-signing tight end Martin Rucker to the practice squad.
Rucker, who appeared in five games for the team last year, as well as Sunday’s season opener, was released from the 53-man roster on Tuesday to make room for cornerback Frank Walker. The same day, wide receiver Laurent Robinson was waived, clearing a space for fullback Tony Fiammetta.
Rucker was pushed off the roster by Martellus Bennett’s expected return from his preseason ankle injury this week.
On Tuesday, the Cowboys released linebacker/fullback Isaiah Greenhouse from their practice squad, creating a place for Rucker.
Jason Garrett is now in his fifth season as a coach for the Cowboys, so it can almost seem like he’s been doing this for a long, long time, and must be pretty set in his ways.
In fact, the 45-year old Garrett is probably still growing and changing a lot in his sideline demeanor and style, just an adolescent in this second career of his. The Cowboys’ acquisition of veteran cornerback Frank Walker is a testament to Garrett’s youth.
The two actually played together and practiced against each other in 2003, Walker’s rookie season with the Giants, Garrett’s final year in New York.
“I used to give him a lot of trouble when we were in New York, but we had a lot of fun,” Walker said. “He was just always a smart guy, always knowing what’s going on. Seeing that in a younger coach, you can tell, pretty much, what a guy is going to be like for the rest of their career by how attentive they are to what guys do, what other players do and picking up on tendencies that other players have.”
Garrett was in the 11th year of his career then, but remembers the 22-year old cornerback from Tuskegee.
“What I remember about him is he came in, and he had a tremendous amount of confidence, and energy, and sprit and enthusiasm, and just loved to play football” Garrett said. “We had some great battles in one-on-ones, and 7-on-7s and 11-on-11s througout training camp, and he’s a guy that keeps coming back.
“If you were around there and you saw this young kid come onto the football team, nobody really knew that much about him, and you saw how he went about it, it doesn’t surprise you at all that he’s still playing. Because he had a great approach, and he certainly has some ability, and it’s been great to see how long he’s played, and played as well as he has.”
IRVING, Texas — Released two days after the Cowboys claimed him off waivers last week, fullback Tony Fiammetta was advised to stay close to the phone.
Sure enough, the Cowboys re-signed him to the active roster Tuesday after getting through the season opener with tight end John Phillips and even nose tackle Josh Brent moonlighting at fullback.
Head coach Jason Garrett said he likes having a traditional fullback as part of his offense, and Fiammetta previously filled that role in Carolina.
“The guys that have been playing fullback have been doing a great job,” Fiammetta said. “I think having a lead blocker in general brings kind of an attitude to the running game.”
The Cowboys averaged only 2.5 yards on 26 carries in the season opener, though the Jets often used eight-man fronts with a “Bear” look to clog the middle.
They also could get help this week from tight end Martellus Bennett, who returned from a high ankle sprain on Wednesday. Bennett typically hasn’t been used in the backfield, but has been an asset to the run in the past.
IRVING, Texas — The Cowboys’ starting receivers are dealing with some bumps and bruises.
Dez Bryant missed Wednesday’s practice with the thigh contusion that appeared to limit him throughout the season opener against the Jets. Miles Austin (knee) popped up on the injury report but fully participated at Cowboys Stadium.
Bryant finished last Sunday’s game — seemingly a positive sign for the 49ers game, because the Cowboys wouldn’t have risked further injury to their young star against the Jets — but he will be monitored throughout the week.
“He loves to play and wants to get himself out there,” head coach Jason Garrett said. “Now, unfortunately, he has some injuries since he’s been here – some serious, legitimate injuries that he’s had to fight through and he’ll continue to learn how to fight through those in practice and get himself out to practice and get himself as ready as he can be come game time.”
Austin was limited last week coming off a strained hamstring in preseason.
IRVING, Texas — The only one of the Cowboys’ three free agent defensive ends without starting experience, Jason Hatcher’s future in Dallas was uncertain entering the offseason.
Not only did the Cowboys wind up re-signing Hatcher a week into training camp, he worked his way into the starting lineup for last week’s opener at the Jets.
Hatcher started at right defensive end opposite Kenyon Coleman and was credited with four tackles, a tackle for loss and a quarterback pressure.
Marcus Spears, a six-year starter who also signed a new deal in August, rotated in with Hatcher and Coleman in his first game back from a strained groin.
“I just think Hatch has played very well from the start of training camp,” head coach Jason Garrett said. “He’s a guy that’s certainly been a very productive player for us in the past, but he came back and has played well as a run defender, as a pass rusher he’s made plays. He just shows up. He was very worthy of that opportunity.
“You want to be able to rotate those guys through, keep those guys fresh. Each of them has a role that’s very significant to our football team.”
IRVING — Cowboys tight end Jason Witten said it’s hard to recover from a slow start in the NFL, as Dallas learned last season with a 1-7 start after losing to Washington, 13-7, to start the season.
Witten said that makes this second game at San Francisco on Sunday that much more important after blowing a 14-point, fourth-quarter lead Sunday night in the opener in a 27-24 loss at the New York Jets.
“Obviously we want to get off to a good start, especially last year when we learned firsthand what that’s about,” Witten said. “The urgency is there. We have good urgency and this team is sticking together and we seem like we’ve bounced back good. Like Tony [Romo] said yesterday, I don’t think the story is written yet. We can control it and we have to do something about it.”
IRVING — Cowboys left guard Bill Nagy missed Thursday’s practice because of a neck injury he suffered during Wednesday’s session.
According to the Cowboys’ official injury report, Nagy was sidelined along with receiver Dez Bryant (thigh) and cornerbacks Terence Newman (groin) and Orlando Scandrick (ankle). Earlier in the day Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said Bryant would play Sunday but that Newman wouldn’t. Scandrick, meanwhile, is expected to wear a protective boot for the next three to six days.
For the second consecutive day, cornerback Mike Jenkins (shoulder) and Anthony Spencer (shoulder) were limited in practice.
Mike Jenkins has been forced to confront questions about his toughness since he’s been with the Cowboys.
That’s not the case this week. The cornerback is being praised by head coach Jason Garrett and others for fighting through injuries to his knee, neck and shoulder to stay on the field against the New York Jets.
“It’s a plus,” said Jenkins, who was limited again in Thursday’s practice with a shoulder injury. “You always want the coaches to be on your side.
“But I wasn’t doing it to try to get a speech from him. I was doing it for the team.”
Terence Newman didn’t play against the Jets and will be out again this weekend against San Francisco. Orlando Scandrick went out early with a high ankle sprain and will also miss the game against the 49ers.
Jenkins concedes if they were healthy, he might not have gone back into the game Sunday night, but he felt an obligation with Newman and Scandrick out to play.
“I’m one of the oldest in the secondary back there,” Jenkins said. “I feel at least one of us needs to be out there.
“Terence Newman is hurt, Orlando is down, so I mean as far as the cornerbacks, at least one of us needs to be on the field.”
IRVING, Texas — His spectacular performance in the season opener shouldn’t be considered a surprise. It should be the standard.
Sean Lee is supposed to be special.
That’s why Jerry Jones was so giddy after Lee slid toward the bottom of the second round in the 2010 draft, allowing the Cowboys to trade up to take him with the 55th overall pick. Jones boasted that evening about stealing a guy they graded as the No. 16 player in the draft.
Galloway & Company
Cowboys LB Sean Lee dishes on his impressive Week 1 performance, embracing Rob Ryan’s scheme and more.
Others at Valley Ranch thought even more highly of Lee, the Penn State product whose draft stock dipped due to a serious knee injury. One scout said Patrick Willis, San Francisco’s perennial Pro Bowler, was the only better inside linebacker who had come out of college in the past decade.
A couple of coaches in Cleveland at the time felt the same way about Lee after watching him play for the Nittany Lions and getting to know him at Penn State’s Pro Day. Rob Ryan and Matt Eberflus tried to talk the Browns’ front office into trading up for Lee.
“He’s got all the good things you look for in a linebacker,” said Eberflus, who followed Ryan to Dallas as the Cowboys’ new defensive coordinator’s linebackers coach and right-hand man.
There’s no reason Lee shouldn’t be the best inside linebacker of the Jerry Jones era. Really, that’s setting the bar low for a player with Lee’s combination of character and ability.
After all, the Cowboys haven’t had a Pro Bowl full-time inside linebacker since Bob Breunig in 1982. (Ken Norton, primarily an outside linebacker during his career, did start 13 games in the middle during his 1993 Pro Bowl campaign.) If Lee fulfills his potential, he’ll line the top of his locker with stickers, a new tradition Jason Garrett has started at Valley Ranch to recognize Pro Bowl appearances.
All due respect to Bradie James, a solid inside linebacker who has led the Cowboys in tackles the past six seasons, but Lee is a completely different level of playmaker. Here’s proof: Lee has three interceptions in the past two games in which he was healthy, which is one pick more than James has in 127 career games.
Keith Brooking, one of the veterans whose playing time has decreased drastically to get on the field, has five of those stickers, all from his days in Atlanta. The Cowboys considered Lee a baby Brooking when they drafted him, a comparison the 14-year veteran considers on the money.
“I’ve said all along, the sky’s the limit for Sean,” Brooking said. “He’s very instinctive. I think just the more reps he gets, the more familiar with the defense he gets, you’re just going to see him continue to progress. He’s extremely intelligent, he works his tail off. So, yeah, he’s going to be a heck of a football player.”
Never mind going to be. Lee still has a lot of developing to do, but the Cowboys need him to be a dominant force now. This is a defense that desperately needs a young playmaker to emerge along with middle-aged Pro Bowlers DeMarcus Ware and Jay Ratliff.
Maybe cornerback Mike Jenkins and/or outside linebacker Anthony Spencer, a pair of former first-round picks, can snap back to their 2009 form. Lee, however, ranks at the top of the list of rising defensive stars the Cowboys are counting on now and for the foreseeable future.
Eberflus can go down the checklist of attributes he looks for from inside linebackers — instincts, football IQ, toughness, competitiveness, strength, speed, quickness — and Lee has them all. The lone knock on Lee is doubts about his durability after he missed time due to quad, hamstring, shoulder and head injuries as a rookie who had recovered from a devastating knee injury in college.
And Lee’s durability apparently isn’t a concern for the Cowboys. He played all but nine defensive downs in addition to covering kickoffs and punts in the season opener. The Cowboys say that they have three starters at inside linebacker, but Lee is clearly the lead dog of the pack despite being the baby of the bunch. You’ll never hear Lee say that — “I’m still a guy who looks to them to learn a lot,” he said of Brooking and James — but the defensive snaps don’t lie. And Lee was on the field for more plays in the opener against the New York Jets than Brooking and James combined.
Lee also made more plays than both veterans, by a lopsided margin. He roamed sideline to sideline to make 11 tackles, showed incredible instincts and athleticism to snare an interception he returned 37 yards to set up a touchdown, and came up with a fumble at the bottom of a pile (although press box statisticians officially credited Danny McCray with the recovery).
It was every bit as impressive as his last healthy performance, when Lee was named NFC Defensive Player of the Week after a nine-tackle, two-pick, one-touchdown day in a win over Peyton Manning’s Indianapolis Colts last season. The challenge is to keep it coming.
“One of the things that we believe is if they’ve done it once, they’re capable of doing it over and over and over again,” Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said. “We’re obviously looking for that consistency.”
That’s what stars do. That’s where the expectations stand for Lee.
CONGRATULATIONS to Carolyn for being the big winner in week #1. Carolyn and The Kiesters topped the rest of us with their 9-7 win/loss record … very nice for opening week! Dallas flies to San Francisco this week. Should be a good game! Good luck everyone!
Rockin Reggie hit a sour note on his scoring system … which only produced 59 points this week. Robbie’s still in the race with 69 points. Only 24 points separates us all … so, we’re all still alive for the RMOG 2011 crown!